BANGOR, Maine – As the state considers a new set of regulations for future wind power projects, Mainers worried about how turbines might affect their scenery and property values have more opportunity to air concerns and offer potential solutions.
Janet Chasse of Greenville is concerned that potential turbines in the Moosehead Lake region would hurt the views that drive locals and tourists there. She and groups of other locals have been fighting possible industrial wind power projects ever since developers placed test towers in the area.
“People are mortified and do not want that at Moosehead,” she said Wednesday during a workshop conducted in Bangor by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which is working on a new set of rules to guide where future wind turbine developments will be permitted.
It’s been an “unusually windy” summer in the Moosehead region, Chasse added, and that has lead to concern that conditions could strengthen the case for a wind farm.
“Every time the wind blows, it depresses me,” she said.
In 2008, Maine’s Legislature passed the Wind Energy Act, which established state policy around wind farm developments. Some areas of the policy were left more open than others, and the state gave the Maine Department of Environmental Protection authority to set more specific rules in the future.
“The new rules will provide us more guidance when we review an application” for a proposed wind development, said Mark Bergeron, director of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Land Resources.
About 30 people, many of them involved in various wind industry opposition and watchdog groups, attended Wednesday’s session on the Department of Environmental Protection’s “pre-rulemaking draft” of the regulations.
Their suggestions ranged from minor word changes to adding more details about what potential developers are required to prove.
The proposed standards regulate scenic character, or how a wind development would impact the views from or character of a “scenic resource of state or national significance” such as a mountain, lake or river; shadow flicker, or changes in light intensity caused by a rotating turbine; public safety; the requirements to prove tangible economic and environmental benefits of the development; and decommissioning, or the demolition of turbines in the event the company that operates them goes bankrupt or otherwise abandons them. A full copy of the draft is available on the state’s website.
The new rules will not cover major issues, such as changing setbacks or banning turbines in certain areas. A change in state law would be required for that to happen.
When a group proposes a new wind project, the onus will be on the developer to prove these standards are met, Bergeron said.
Kay Campbell of Jefferson suggested the state use computer simulations to determine the visual impacts of proposed turbine projects and give people a better idea of what to expect.
Chris King of Greenville asked that the Department of Environmental Protection require that wind industry applicants who collect meteorological data in advance of a development project reveal that information regardless of what it says. He’s concerned applicants wouldn’t include unfavorable data in their applications unless required to do so.
Bergeron said the Department of Environmental Protection would continue to work on the regulations, making changes based on public feedback before finishing an official draft of the rules later this fall. Another public comment session will be held when the official draft is completed.
Members of the public may still submit comments to the Department of Environmental Protection by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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